OT, but interesting


I graduated from high school in 1968 and enrolled in a computer programming school called ECPI (Electronic Computer Programming Institute). To get into that school, I had to take a "Data Processing Aptitude Test." One of the questions on that test was:

In a certain company, 3/5 of the employees can type, 1/4 can take shorthand, and 1/5 can do both. What percentage can neither type nor take shorthand?

It was a multiple-choice question, with 5 possible answers. I won't list the possible answers. Disregarding the fact that being able to answer this question has almost no bearing on being able to succeed in "data processing," what is the answer? I didn't know it in 1968, and I'm not all that sure I know it in 2011.

I suspect that even if you scored zero on the aptitude test, they would still take your money and enroll you.


1 - (3/5 + 1/4 - 1/5) = 1 - 0.65 = 0.35 = 35%.

Minus 1/5 because both the 3/5 and 1/4 included it already and we wouldn't want to double count it.

- Pauli


In a certain company, 3/5 of the employees can type, 1/4 can take shorthand, and 1/5 can do both. What percentage can neither type nor take shorthand?

my answer would be 35% (or 7/20).

(3/5) - (1/5) can only type = 2/5

1/4 can at least take shorthand, and some of these may also be able to type

(2/5) + (1/4) = 13/20 can either type, or take shorthand, or both.

the remainder (7/20) can do neither. my reasoning is that in conversational english the assertion "60% of our staff can type" would always include those staff who can both type and do other things. similarly for shorthand.


Hi Don,

Following is a variation of your problem, with no listed answer:

Placement Problem

Apparanty, variations of this question is used on several placement test.




I had a similar experience many years ago when I applied for a position with Xerox to repair copiers. They gave each applicant a very long test that included word problems and various logic problems. The test had to be completed in a very short time. They wanted to see how fast you could analyze the problems and come up with an answer. Logic problems actually made a lot sense, since the copiers in those days were controlled by relays, a lot like the early relay computers.

I didn't get the job - it came down to me and one other person. Overall, I scored higher, but they gave the job to the other guy since "I was single and he was married with kids, and needed the job more than I did." Believe it or not, that was exactly what I was told when I was turned down for the position.



So, they discriminated based upon marital status. I don't know if that is illegal today, but it seems like it should be.

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